|A typical Workinmen's Hall interior|
As incredible as it sounds I remember the local priest and his flock of bible bashers protesting outside the hall when the Exorcist was being shown, warning us that our soul would be dammed if we went in and saw the movie. I think that was the only film we were turned away from for being under-age. Absurd when we used to get into watch soft porn comedies like the Confessions and Adventures movies. In fact it wasn't until years later that I finally saw The Exorcist on video tape and what a load of tedious crap I thought it was.
The Workingmen's Hall closed sometime around the early 80's and then one Sunday afternoon vandals broke in to steal the old copper piping for scrap value and set a fire. The building was declared unsafe and demolished soon after. I was there that Sunday afternoon, walking past, when it happened and I remember watching the fire engulf the building and thinking even then of all the hours I had spent within its walls as a kid. In fact it was the Workingmen's Hall that gave me my life long love of the movies.
It's gone forever now as have many of the other Workingmen's Halls in the valleys. They were called Workingmen's Halls or Miner's Institutes because they were built with donations taken weekly from the wages of local workingmen.
"Gilfach Goch (English: Red Valley) is a small former coal mining village. It is reputed to have once been home to the author Richard Llewellyn who based his novel How Green Was My Valley in a fictional town assumed to be based on Gilfach Goch. Llewellyn would spend long summer holidays with his grandfather in the village."
It's sad and it's only when something's gone that you realise the true worth of the place. It was more than a building and over the years it had served as a place for communities to meet. When I was a kid in the 1970's the Hall was already past its best but for many years it served as venue for local dances, amateur dramatics presentations, Bingo nights and of course as a movie house. It also doubled as a soup kitchen during many of the various miners strikes.
Whenever something monumental like that happened we would boast to our mates - "She let me have top!". I can't recall anyone ever saying they were allowed to have bottom too. That would have been too much - you'd crash your skateboard just thinking about it.
I guess we never thought that one day it would be gone, as a kid you don't really think like that. But everytime I walk past the place where it once stood, and look at the modern houses built there, I think of the many happy hours spent in the Workingmen's Hall, of all the movies I saw there and of course of the first time I ever had top.